As I was pondering our rich culture and heritage late one evening, I was profoundly struck by the ever present letter “M” in all things Jewish. And yet, no “M” appears anywhere in the word. My musings, for your consideration …
We, as Jews, do follow the precepts of a monotheistic religion (one G-d) and according to Jewish law, one that is based on matrilineal descent (our religious lineage comes directly from our mother). Our commandments or mitzvots for living a good Jewish life are 613 strong. As an aside, the number of Positives are 248 which corresponds, according to rabbinic tradition to the number of bones in the human body, and the number of Negatives are 365 or the number of days in a year. Sorry for the slight detour.
Our official symbol, the six-pointed star is called the Magen David. Each and every Jewish dwelling is blessed with the presence of a mezuzah on the doorway as a gesture of reverence for G-d. We gather together with our family or mishpachah for events or celebrations.
Two of our eight day holidays make good use of the letter “M” as well. On Passover, we ask the four questions or recite the Mah Nishtanah and consume unleavened bread or matzah and for dessert we have macaroons. We reverently discuss our exodus from Egypt and the trials and tribulations of perhaps our greatest leader, Moses. On Chanukkah, we light the candles of the eight armed candelabra or menorah. We discuss the bravery and persistence of the Maccabees in their battle with the Syrians and the ultimate miracle of the oil and rededication of the Temple.
As we travel to our shul or synagogue we will undoubtedly view one of several seven armed (one for each day of the week) candelabras or menorahs. Perhaps while there we might also visit the ritual bath or mikveh to cleanse or purify. As we gather for prayer we seek out a group of ten men and women or just men (depends on your stream of Judaism) for a minyan, the minimum required for communal prayer. A discussion may ensue as we discuss the Mishnah, a section of the Talmud that relates the original Oral Laws concerning events and the ethics of Jewish life. Individually, we might think about the need for universal peace and an end to the existing evil in our troubled world and the appearance of the Mashiach (the Hebrew word for Messiah) to usher in the World to Come.
In our homes we might enjoy mandelbread or almond cookies with a mug of tea, while chatting with friends about an upcoming trip to Israel including a visit to Masada, the mountaintop fortress rich with the history of our struggles as Jews.
We often speak of our mazel or luck, sometimes good and sometimes not. When a baby is born (if a male, we will need a mohel to perform the ritual circumcision), when a couple is married, when we earn a promotion at work or when any other manner of that which is good befalls another, we all say mazel tov or congratulations on the blessed event.
As we leave our visit together with, in my humble opinion, the decidedly Jewish letter “M”, perhaps you the reader might want to add your own “M” words to the list and in turn contemplate all that is good and the reason why Israel must never falter. We all have an obligation to preserve the rich culture that is ours and to guarantee that it continues to exist forever, despite all of the many obstacles and continual negative forces that try to take this all away. May G-d continue to bless us all and the State of Israel, in her fervent and righteous fight to exist.
For those of you who’ve gotten this far, please do accept my thanks for reading this whole megillah …